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The Philippines and Child Restraint Systems

One fine day, you’re driving your 4-year-old kid to school that’s just 10 km away. Your kid, along with your helper, is sitting at the back seat telling you how excited he is about today’s school activities. As usual, you drive at a very safe speed of 40kph; you’re early anyway and in no hurry. Suddenly, an SUV rams into your vehicle from behind at 100kph. Your quick witted helper immediately hugs your child to try and keep him from harm. Do you think your helper’s arms are enough to protect your child from the collision’s impact?

You’ve always thought it won’t happen to you. You always drive safely, and take extra precaution when your little one is with you. But accidents happen. Road crashes happen. Even if they aren’t your fault, you can be part of one. As a parent, we want the best for our children. When it comes to child safety, are you sure you have done all that you can and provided the best?

Photo: X17agency.com

In the Philippines, the norm is that a baby is cradled in a companion’s arms while travelling, or children are seated on the lap of an adult with their arms around their waist, or when big enough or stubborn enough, they get to sit on their own already. However, the norm does not necessarily equate to the right or the safe way. A child restraint system is specifically designed to protect children from injury or death during vehicle collisions.

 

 

Philippine Law

Republic Act 8750 or the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999 is “an act requiring the mandatory compliance by motorists of private and public vehicles to use seat belt devices, and requiring vehicle manufacturers to install seat belt devices in all their manufactured vehicles.” It is mentioned in Section 11 that the enforcing and implementing agency of this act may require the use of special car seats for infants, if deemed necessary. Though unfortunately, none was ordered thereafter.

The lack of requirement of the use of car seats or child restraint systems for young children on board motor vehicles gave rise to House Bills 1319 and 5595, which were then consolidated and became the proposed Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2017 or House Bill 6938. It requires the use of car seats for children and prohibits children below 12 years old to sit in the front seat. The said bill, whose sponsors are Catanduanes Representative Cesar V. Sarmiento and Buhay Party-list Representative Mariano Michael Velarde, was approved on its third and final reading early this year by the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote of 225-0.

Senators JV Ejercito and Risa Hontiveros presiding over the public hearing for Senate Bill 1447 on May 23, 2018. (photo: Celine Isabelle Samson, reporter VERA Files)

The counterpart of House Bill 6938 is Senate Bill 1447, which was authored by Senator Jose Victor ‘JV’ Ejercito, was first discussed during a hearing on May 23 this year. All nineteen (19) agencies and organizations that participated in the hearing supported the bill but stressed the need for information campaigns. Last September 4, Senator JV Ejercito delivered his sponsorship speech at the Senate saying, “The number of deaths of children from road crashes have steadily increased. This is a grave concern and needs our immediate attention.” A lot of groups, including Safe Kids Manila, are supporting and calling for the immediate passage of the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles bill into law.

 

Buckle Up

As defined in House Bill 6938, a child restraint system “refers to a device capable of accommodating a child occupant in a sitting or supine position. It is so designed as to diminish the risk of injury to the wearer, in the event of a collision or an abrupt deceleration of the vehicle, by limiting the mobility of the child’s body.”

The Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies in the University of the Philippines Manila or UP-IHPDS conducted a study whereby only 10% out of 1,000 drivers and parents interviewed had a correct understanding of child restraint systems.

A child using a Mother’s Choice Avoro convertible car seat in rear-facing position

Unbeknownst to some, there are different child restraint devices according to a child’s age and/or size (height and weight). The rear-facing car seat is the most popularly known car seat; it is used from birth up to the age of 2. For the next stage, there is a forward-facing car seat and lastly, a booster seat. A child may only use a vehicle’s installed seat belts once they fit properly – the recommended height for proper seat belt fit is 57 inches tall according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or 59 inches tall according to the proposed House Bill/Senate Bill.

How do child restraint systems help? Car seats are said to reduce the risk of infant death by 71% and by 54% for toddlers aged 1 to 4 in car crashes. Booster seats reduce the risk for serious injury by 45% for children ages 4 to 8. It is emphasized though that the child restraint device should be installed correctly and must fit the child properly for it to protect your child and reduce the risk of injury or fatality.

 

 

The Numbers

The Department of Health (DOH) has identified car crashes as the second leading cause of death for Filipinos aged 0 to 17 years old. According to the Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS) Annual Report 2017, there were 423 road crashes resulting to 434 fatalities and 15,505 road crashes causing injuries to 19,374 people. Further breakdown of numbers shows that for Metro Manila alone, children (aged 1 to 17) comprise 4 out of the 434 deaths and 136 out of the total recorded injuries. A look at data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that an average of 667 children died from car crashes every year from 2006 to 2015.

Now, think about this: a child who goes to school from 4 up to 12 years old that travels 10 minutes daily, will be on the road at least 1,920 times for at least 320 hours or 13.33 days inside a vehicle. At any of those times, an accident might happen.

Get the appropriate child restraint device now or let your child pay the price when it’s too late.

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